Dear Daddy…

Author anonymous.

How true these sentiments are! I have never experienced the ‘close loss’ of a loved one prior to 2015. I have had recurring nightmares, all of my life, about losing my father, in particular. I always imagined it to be horrendous, but had no concept how debilitating it would be. All I could do for my 45 years so far on this earth was to say, “I can only imagine”, listen & simply say, “If there’s anything I can do, please ask” (which they rarely did). I would turn away from cemeteries & funeral processions for the grief of the mourners was palpable to me…Death was palpable to me. I don’t know if it was sympathy or fear that I felt…Maybe both.

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My father was ‘my parent’, my closest friend & confidant, my hero, my ‘person’.

He woke me for many years from my nightmares in which he had died, as did my husband since. They would comfort me, dry my tears, reassure me that it had just been a bad dream. Sometimes, my husband would call my father in the middle of the night to convince me that he was okay. Until August 13th of 2015 that is.

Dad had two more heart attacks that night. I had been ill & I turned off my phone. When I awoke at 4 am, I turned on my phone to find the text & voice messages & his girlfriend’s pleas for me to call and/or come to the hospital in New York.

He had asked her to call me 45 minutes before he had his second heart attack, right there in the ER. The doctors/nurses worked for 45 eternal minutes to save him. He was then intubated , & placed on a ventilator. They put in a ‘balloon pump’ to keep him alive & sedated him. I ran to him without hesitation. Those days in the hospital, I could get him to open his eyes & nod ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to simple questions, but was unable to communicate with him otherwise.

His eyes were like a child’s eyes…frightened & confused…Like he wanted to say something, to talk to me.

At the hospital, my voice stirred him from his sedation. He needed minimal stimulation so that his heart & body could attempt to heal…I knew this as a nurse. I avoided being in the room while family was in there because they would ask me questions & he would open his frightened eyes at the sound of my voice. They all had medical questions & wanted to understand what had & was happening. But I just didn’t want him to suffer more.

So I would sit quietly with him the rare times nobody else was in there praying & silently pleading for what I knew was happening, to not happen…he was dying, his systems were shutting down, but I hoped to be the dumbest nurse on the planet & was fully willing to burn my nursing license to be proven wrong.

His girlfriend & I had joint power of attorney. He had told me for years of all of his final wishes. He trusted my heart & medical knowledge to make the decisions to fulfill HIS wishes in such a situation. My specialty was respiratory, but my older brother had been a cardiac nurse for many years, so he told me what needed to happen & what to expect. We kept in constant contact & it got to the point that I had to call him to come to New York because I believed he was not going to survive. I had promised since childhood to make such decisions & to always take care of him, but my brother & my other siblings should be there, if at all possible. My father had said he didn’t want that, but it was right…he was their father too.

While waiting for my brother, I made decisions with his girlfriend & guided her gently from ‘do whatever it takes for as long as it takes’ to ‘do whatever you can to fight medically, but let him go if his heart keeps stopping’ . I was as strong as I could be for him. I wanted to fulfill my promises, to make him proud & I rarely cried (which is completely out of character for me).

The little girl in me was trying to claw her way out, to beg him not to go, to cry to him & just lay with him in that bed…The adult nurse I’ve become managed to keep the little girl in her cage. I painfully faced my worst, life-long & fearfully filled nightmare… Coming true while being wide awake. All of this while another family member accused me of ‘trying to kill’ my precious father by making the extremely difficult decision to sign a DNR, along with all that happened during those horrific days.

I watched him suffer & endure so much in order to try to allow time for my siblings to arrive from various locations throughout the US. He fought so incredibly hard, alongside God, as they arrived…He was as strong & stubborn as he had always been. When all but one had arrived, his girlfriend had finally moved to agree with me about continuing all of the life-saving measures, but to let him go if his heart kept stopping.

I told her that I didn’t think that ‘God & my father would make us make that decision’ & tearfully thanked her for not making me fight her as I was preparing to do. We both marveled at his wisdom of knowing our hearts & minds well enough to know we would work together in such an excruciating situation. God & my father did, indeed, take it out of all of our hands & he died that afternoon, without us having had to make any decisions. My poor brother had to watch it happen. I am so glad that I was not in that room, but wish he had not had to see it.

Saying that final goodbye was the most difficult thing I’d ever done but as I embraced him one last time, I knew that he was already gone forever. August 19th, 2015, Daddy left this earth while being surrounded, one final time, by the family he had spent a lifetime loving. He was the glue that held us all together for decades & even in his death, he was working side by side with God, to give us each his very final, lesson of love.

For Daddy
“I miss & love you so. Each second that passes, it grows. I pray that time will lessen the intensity of sorrow that permeates my soul now. The sheer magnitude of this horrifically cruel experience has devastated every fiber of my being.
You believed in me as no other human has or will again & I always strived to make you proud all of my life. You taught me to value myself by keeping me perched so high on your pedestal…For if you loved me so much, there must’ve been someone worth loving, right? I told you & showed you often of the quality & quantity of my love for you, I pray you knew, deep within the truth, of what you have meant to me.”

Love always, your little girl.

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